Funny money: Britain's jokers are cashing in

Comedians – not rock stars – are selling out some of the biggest venues in the country. Andrew Johnson reports on a joke boom

It is one of the most eagerly awaited shows of the year. Flash bombs, dry ice and thousands of screaming fans will greet him as he steps on to some of the biggest stages in the country.

But there will be no opening blast of drums. This is not the Stones, just a chubby bloke from Bolton, cracking jokes about garlic bread and smashing sales records with his first live tour in seven years. The biggest selling live tour in Britain this year is not a superannuated rock band but Peter Kay's 90-date Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour, which has sold more than 750,000 tickets and includes 35 nights in Manchester alone. The manager of the Manchester Evening News Arena in the city described Kay's tour as the "the biggest arena tour by anybody, ever, in this country".

Kay is leading a phalanx of comedians who are selling vast numbers of live tickets this year. The ticketing giant Ticketmaster said tickets for his coming tour is their biggest selling act of the financial year. Comedian Michael McIntyre was their fourth biggest act. Geoff Huckstep, the chief executive of Nottingham Arena, said McIntyre sold out five nights in the 10,000-seat venue in record time. "There's massive demand for comedy," he said. "To sell five nights like McIntyre did is incredible; it was faster than Kings of Leon."

The Irish comedian and host of Mock the Week, Dara O'Briain, who is in the middle of a 150-date tour, said: "Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre are bringing in an audience who haven't previously thought to go to a comedy show, and maybe that's having a knock-on effect. It may also be because suddenly there are far more comedians coming up, and they are being given exposure on panel game shows which are repeated all the time on the television channel Dave, so they don't have to spend years and years gigging as someone like Eddie Izzard did."

Michael McIntyre

The pretender to Kay's throne. His DVD Live and Laughing was the fastest selling debut comedy DVD. He won best stand up at the 2009 British Comedy awards and banked about £8m. He says: "When you look at a wine list, it's utter gibberish. So ignore the name of the wine and look at the price only, then point."

John Bishop

Scouse, working-class comedian started stand-up in 2000 and will draw around 180,000 people to his shows this year. A pilot BBC show, John Bishop's Britain, could propel him into the very big time. He says: "If you're in your forties and wearing trainers and jeans, it makes you look a bit like a responsible adult should be holding your hand."

Shappi Khorsandi

Iranian-born stand-up who's been on the circuit for 10 years is one of the few female comedians to break through. She says: "Usually when I get on stage, men go 'Oooh, that's a bird!', and I have to explain to them that there are some women that get on stage without a pole."

Eddie Izzard

The marathon-running veteran comic is a pioneer of the arena circuit. His tour last year helped him to make £3m. He says: "The National Rifle Association says: 'Guns don't kill people, people do,' but I think the gun helps. Just standing there going 'Bang!' isn't going to kill many people. Unless your heart's really dodgy; then it might."

Frankie Boyle

Straight-talking, expletive-spouting, angry man of comedy. Boyle was the star of Mock the Week and his biography My Shit Life So Far was a surprise bestseller last year, helping him earn £2m. He says: "The Tories have said they want to make more prison ships. Surely, if you put prisoners on ships, you're only going to create more pirates."

Jimmy Carr

Sharp-suited, clean-cut English gent who whacks audiences with his dry and caustic wit. Often to be seen as the link on those clip shows such as the 100 best TV moments. He will play to about 300,000 this year and earned about £5m in 2009. He says: "In Pizza Hut you can get garlic bread with cheese and tomato. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but that's a pizza."

Peter Kay

The cheeky-faced Boltonian is the current king not only of comedy but of live entertainment. His DVD and book sales alone in 2008 earned him £4.5m. He says: "I was bullied at school, called all sorts of names. But one day I turned to my bullies and said, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,' and it worked. From there on, it was sticks and stones all the way."

Russell Howard

The Mock the Week regular earned £4m last year. He says: "There were MPs claiming for moats, tennis courts, swimming pools, and they all claimed: 'It's legal!' So is waking your Nan up dressed as Hitler. But you don't do it."

Dara O'Briain

Big-framed Irish funny man and host of Mock the Week is on a 150-date tour that will help make up for the 40 per cent pay cut from the BBC. He says: "I never have cash in my wallet, just months and months of receipts. Really I need a mugger who can file my VAT returns."

Jenny Eclair

The first woman to win the Edinburgh Fringe comedy award has become a staple on BBC2's Grumpy Old Women. She says: "Sometimes I see a baby and think: 'That's what I want, a baby.' Then I see a pair of shoes and I think, 'No, have the shoes instead.'"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor